Let us begin with Christianity. Simply put, Christianity views divorce as a tragedy, whether or not it was caused by biblically justifiable circumstances. Divorce has no positive connotation in the Christian mind at all.

In fact, one of the main scriptures referenced by Christians regarding divorce is a quotation from the prophet Malachi – “He (God) hates divorce” (Mal.2:16), a Christian can only view divorce negatively (We will see in future posts that there is a serious reason to doubt this translation from Hebrew).

But what about Judaism? Does Judaism view divorce positively? No, but neither does it have an inherently negative view of it. Divorce is viewed as a necessary step in a broken world for couples who have truly arrived at a point where they are no longer able to continue in their marriage.

Divorce in Judaism is not a badge of honor, but unlike Christianity, it is not a priori a tragedy or sin. In Judaism, divorce may be granted for a variety of qualified reasons. While Judaism does not view divorce as something to be desired or pursued, but as something that is nevertheless legitimate under some circumstances (such as marital unfaithfulness, domestic violence or spousal neglect).

In other words, there is something that Judaism recognizes that Christianity, generally speaking, does not: The only thing worse than divorce is a bad marriage.

While hurting children is a byproduct of almost every divorce, the values and practices of a bad marriage, which children daily witness, will become a greater hindrance to their happy, fulfilled, and productive lives as future adults than even the temporary pain of an emotionally restructured life.

What do you friends think? Is this about right, or have I mis-characterized either Christian or Jewish position? (Obviously it is much more complex than that, but we will explore this important topic in much more depth in the weeks to come).

95 COMMENTS

  1. I think that’s an accurate description. Which is why, even in very anti-divorce churches like the Catholic, divorce is as common as among anyone else. Modernity is more “Jewish” in that regard.

  2. The “Tree of Life Version” has a few lessons that tell that under certain circumstances it is the course of action that should be taken.

    • Hi Jerry, can you please tell me what those circumstances are according to the TLV. And maybe you can give me the Scripture references too? Thanks!

  3. Having lived this & the church damming me I read a lot. Summary: Look at the character of a loving God demonstrated in Jesus. His character does nit damm, destroy people,, but forgives, restores, enables new life to grow. To force people to stay in destruction is not Christ like.

  4. Dr. Eli,
    As I have searched the scriptures, I have found various things. My understanding is that a marriage can be ended if there is a) marital unfaithfulness or b) death (obvious). Other than that, the couple must stick it out.
    J

  5. Thanks, Much the same conclusion I came to a number of years ago as well. Looking forward to more information on this.

  6. While I believe that every divorce is not a tragedy, I believe divorce in general is very sad, especially if children are involved. I am a counselor and I have found that many marriages that are in trouble can be helped and restored if both parties are willing. And that is the caveat: “if both parties are willing”. Many times they are not if they are all ready involved with another person sexually, but even sometimes then, their is hope and forgiveness.

  7. Which view do you think is closer to biblically accurate? When I say biblically I mean old and new testaments. It concerns me that many Christian’s are rigid in their opinion as to what Yeshua said but that there is a whole opposite viewpoint that takes marriage too lightly especially when viewed from scripture where Paul compares earthy marriage covenant to our relationship with God. Very deep topic I am interested to hear more…..

  8. I have actually gone through two divorces.One where neither parties were committed Christians & the other where I became a Christian half way through our 4 yr marriage to find that my ex husband committed adultery.

  9. I think you’re right. In fact, for further discussion, I’d recommend reading chapter 5 from Dallas Willard’s Divine Conspiracy where he talks about divorce from Jesus’ statements in Matthew 5.

  10. From what I have studied, t5he translation should read, “God hates ‘setting aside.'” Which is what Jews were doing by emulating nearby pagan cultures. That is, setting aside a wife and taking on a new one with a real divorce from the original wife…which then left the women in limbo.

  11. From what I have studied, the translation should read, “God hates ‘setting aside.’” Which is what some Jews were doing by emulating nearby pagan cultures. That is, setting aside a wife and taking on a new one without a real divorce from the original wife…who was now in limbo.

    • Perhaps what is most interesting is that the Hebrew grammar of the main verse under consideration does not support the now traditional translation “‘For I hate divorce’, says the Lord God of Israel”. Instead, the original Hebrew states כִּי-שָׂנֵא שַׁלַּח, which means something like “because/for he hates” and “he sends”. The translation found in the Christian Standard Bible captures this phrase quite well, reading: “’If he hates and divorces his wife’, says the LORD God of Israel…” (Mal. 2:16-17).

  12. Hello! I am divorced woman, I felt like Christianity was shoving me, saying I was no good. He did all the legitimate reasons for me to divorce, he wanted the divorce, I didn’t. Divorce is good if you have been hurt like I was, but try to work it out!

  13. I divorced 10 years ago due to irreconcilable differences. Godly leaders in the congregation explained that Jesus was not disagreeing with the Levitical laws but clarifying the position relative to no fault or trivial reasons for divorce

  14. As has been said, one of the saddest part of divorce is the effect on the children, especially when they have to keep swapping between Mum and Dad’s house. A better recent suggested solution is that the children stay put and the parents do the swapping!

  15. I would say that the Christian objection to divorce is found in Matt 5. It seems to plainly say that divorce is not acceptable except for the case of adultery, and therefor a divorce for any other reason creates a de facto adultery situation.

    • Mike, thank you so much. Indeed it appears to be! But as we will see in future studies, there needs to be a serious correction to our our understanding of Matt.5. More to come, please, stay tuned.

  16. My take is David Instone-Brewer obsoleted essentially all older thinking on what Scripture teaches on the subject of divorce, at least that I had read. That is a base upon which to build, possibly.

  17. I had to go through a divorce years ago. While I was in Vietnam my then wife started sneaking around with my best friend. His wife caught them and they divorced. Through the blessings of God we married later and have been together for 53 years.

  18. Marital vows & joining man & woman in Holy Matrimony is forever. God gives strength to battle spiritual evil that comes against the Union as He does for all sin that destroys Christian life Promise we stand on. Adultery is a sin against our own flesh & Him.

  19. Could be everyone is looking for an easy way out? Does God change His mind once He has consecrated the Union & made one flesh of a man & a woman? Trials & tribulations are allowed by Him to test & refine us. Hard to stay true

  20. Has anyone noticed that the Bible only speaks of a man divorcing his wife but not the other way round? This may sound sexist, but it is Biblical fact. Even more sexist is the fact that there is nowhere in the Bible where God expressed displeasure at polygamy.

    • Polygamy is a bigger topic that most people realize. But here we deal with divorce only. Yes, clearly biblical culture is patriarchal. In Judaism, while a woman and man both can initiated divorce, only a man can grant a certificate of divorcement to the woman.

    • Sexist….interesting topic…Maybe that will be included in all of the topics Dr. ELI adresses as part of divorce,remarriage…

  21. I have thoughts much the same of all the above…but I have a question about a divorced person marring again. I have been told that it is a sin to remarry. (Mart 10)

    • It is not a sin to remarry IF divorce was done properly (meaning that it was based on Biblical grounds alone and not for ANY REASON!). Everyone (and that is Jesus’ point) that was divorced for illegitimate reasons can not and MUST NOT REMARRY, because if he or she does marries, he or she in fact is committing adultery! Hang in there we will discuss this in the future posts.

  22. I am struggling with the fact that people divorce sometime to easily. But at this moment I think that after a divorce, remarige is not what God wants. In the OJB and the Dutch HSV, stands that God hate that you send your spouse away.

  23. I don’t know about the accuracy of the portrayals, but instead of demonstrating the Jewishness of the gospels, in this post you seem to be trying to show their inferiority to unbelieving, unredeemed Judaism, in the matter of divorce.

    • Michael, thanks for voicing your objection. I welcome it. Please, kindly allow me to present to you an alternative version of what I was meaning to say, perhaps imperfectly:

      Today’s Rabbinic Judaism on marriage WHILE HAVING SIGNIFICANT PROBLEMS (as per Jesus’ criticism of pre-rabbinic pharisees) knows and affirms something that both JESUS and PAUL knew and affirmed that other then marital unfaithfulness there was one other Biblical reason for legitimate divorce – NEGLECT (that can be displayed in such things like abandonment and domestic violence). But I promise that if you stay tuned you will see that I in no way disregard what the Jewish Gospels have to say about divorce and remarriage.

  24. I totally agree. Divorce is a tragic thing and will cause deep pain even when a necessary action. Jesus said Moses (by God’s authority) permitted divorce because of the HARDNESS OF THE HUMAN HEART. You were so right to say, “The only thing worse than divorce is a bad marriage.” To limit divorce from a truly demeaning and psychologically damaging, perhaps even physically dangerous union, to the death or infidelity of the spouse flies in the face of the perfect love and wisdom of a gloriously good God. Such an attitude does not take into consideration the depths of depravity humans are capable of. Such rigid attitudes turn people away from Christianity and God himself!

  25. 1 Cor.5:15 also recognizes desertion by an unbelieving spouse as grounds for divorce. I do not believe we get to manufacture selfish reasons, but I definitely believe there are instances where it is not only appropriate, but necessary. Shalom in the home is a priority. Looking forward to further discussion.

  26. Hi Dr. Eli, Perhaps the greatest tragedy regarding divorce it the treatment of many churches toward the divorcees, whether they are the “guilty” party or not. Many are subtley shunned ( or not so subtley) and in many cases barred from ministry.
    An example, again, of “shooting our wounded.”

  27. I have been divorced for many years (around 50years) and one of the things that stuck with me thru my studies was that Moses allowed divorce not because it was a good thing, but because of the hardness of the heart. The involved parties must be willing to work it out ( in humility before God) but if not willing divorce. I know the way I have stated this is muddled but the best I can do.

    • Marilyn, thank you. Yes, no one says that divorce is not rooted in human sin, of course it is. But divorce, precisely because of that in some circumstances is a good thing, not a bad one.

  28. Yes, divorce is sad, sad that what started in joy (usually!) didn’t work out. Sometimes a marriage can be so disastrous that any children are hurt by its very existence and so only benefit from the dissolution. As a general comment on biblical aspects, while Christianity is rooted in a Hebrew Bible background, that was to a significant degree superseded by the message and teachings Christ and of the New Testament. Even there, there is often a need to carefully interpret in the context of the specific peoples being addressed and the context of the times. While Old Testament law has relevance in the Christian faith, many seem to “cherry-pick” the parts of that law, asserting what suits their particular viewpoint, and ignoring the rest. If you accept guidance from the “Law”, you must accept the totality – yet Christ came as, to over-simplify, the Law wasn’t working. And I’m well-aware that therein lies the topic for many books or papers.

  29. Dr.Eli,
    I am so very interested in hearing you expound scripture on divorce and (remarriage)?.Christians are the worst for keeping people in bondage Staying in ungodly marriages for the duration of hell on earth.Pardon expression…..
    Unless you have been in a loveless marriage,I dont think people understand.Thankyou very much

  30. The Uniting Church (Protestant Church) in Australia accepts people who are divorced and want to get married again. It is recognized there is times when a marriage does not work out.

    • Yes, indeed. People need to know that divorce is not the end of life and they do not become people of second sort in God’s eyes.

  31. So when does the “getting married and divorce stop”. Some continue throughout their lives like its second nature. The Bible has to be our source, and this shows that God should give us our spouses. Watch out for giving Christians a rubber stamp on divorce as some define it differently.

  32. In Matthew 5:32 Jesus says”But here is what I tell you. Anyone who divorces his wife causes her to commit adultery. And anyone who gets married to the divorced woman commits adultery.A man may divorce his wife only if she has not been faithful to him.”

    • John, thank you, my brother. We will discuss the context for this statement in later studies. You will then be able to rethink what Jesus’ words meant. Stay tuned.

  33. I will be very interested to see how people view Matthew 5:32. I can see how the emphasis is on the man, that he cannot simply divorce his wife for selfish and trivial reasons which may have been common practice, thus forcing the woman to commit adultary if she remarried.

    • You are surely on the right track! Jesus’ point is not that one can not divorce or remarry, but that if it is done for nonbiblical reasons (as most people did it back then and even now) than one must either reconcile, if possible, or not remarry at all, since in fact these person is STILL MARRIED to the wrongfully divorced spouse! We will study this further and will see that Jesus allows as Paul (based on Torah) divorces only for the reasons of sexual immorality and spousal neglect (why it is not mentioned in Matt. 5 and other places we will see later).

  34. Divorce with remarriage sucks! When two people marry and have children they must suck up everything! Otherwise marriage vows become a comedy. With just cause mere separation is tolerable.

    • Really? What about a man making porn movies or killing people, beating his wife half-dead? (that is not adultery per say). Is divorce not justifiable in this case? If it is, than why would the victim be punished by celibacy? (stay tuned plz as we discussed the forgotten second reason for divorce in the Bible, that Jesus assumes and Paul affirms).

  35. Speaking as a Christian, yes, you have mischaracterized the Christian position. Remember, the RCC is only one sect of christiandom and does not speak for all Christians. Neither is Matthew 5 the only word on the subject. Please read 1 Corinthians 7 as well.

  36. Sholom. My brother and I grew up with an alcoholic father. He was intoxicated on every holiday and celebration. Our parents had bitter fights and arguments. She stayed with daddy (for the children). She did divorce him after we were grown. We have often wondered if it would not have been better if she had divorced him or separated from him while we were growing up. Sometimes divorce can be a blessing at least for one party.

  37. Dr. Eli: An earlier comment stated that the Bible speaks of only the husband divorcing his wife but “not the other way around;” however, Mark 10:12 quotes Jesus dealing specifically with the subject of a wife-initiated divorce. I am ocasional reader of your posts and enjoy them immensely. Shana Tova!

  38. I agree- divorce is permissible under certain circumstances. That is not to say divorce is desirable. I adhere to the view that marriage is a LIFE TIME journey or commitment. I joke that in heaven the LORD permits my wife and I to continue life together as roommates!

  39. The Hebrew does not translate as “divorce.”
    In English it is better rendered as “send away” which physically would mean the same thing, but invokes many other implications.

  40. Its not an easy thing. Just got in it now. Only God Himself can give anyone strength to go through this. Our generation needs to be taught about this. Thanks Dr. Eli for the insights. God bless you!

  41. Thank you for addressing this very serious subject. I look forward to reading more in the days ahead. This subject truly interests us all and we all need to hear what Scripture interpreted properly says. Shalom

  42. Dr. Eli, is divorce permitted where the wife refuses to enter into intimacy with her husband and will not respect him, yet demands he do all the work around the house? A friend has been in this for 5 years, but he won’t divorce due to the “God hates…” verse.

      • Sadly, marriage counseling did not work. They are farther apart now than they were before counseling. All their friends that know her say he should divorce her. I was curious to see if abandonment fits how she has decided to treat him, according to the meaning of divorce.

        • There are good/better/best or bad/worse/worst options (it’s not all black/white). Look, to be perfect, we should rejoice in suffering (even by a spouse), serve as unto the Lord with a joyful heart, love our enemies (even a wife), and resist divorce except for infidelity, right? But this is our ultimate goal, not our inflexible cutoff mark.

  43. Staying in an abuse marriage for children sake or divorcing for children and wife safety will bring much dramatizing in the children’s life no matter the time.
    I speak from experience, I hat to divorce my husband with 3 little children, little children, or stay and be killed by the abuse father.
    How ever the children were very dramatized, I can still see the affect on their lives after 40 years.
    I’m always praying for the healing they need and deserve.
    I was a Roman Catholic and the father ( that is what the priests were called then) told me I had to go back for I was living in sin.
    I left the church and didn’t like back. I did not want to have any thing to do with God.
    On my forty’s I give my life to my Lord Jesus and never looked back! Praise my Savior and Lord for loving me, period! Thank you for the teaching.

  44. Don’t forget my favorite, I Pet 3:6 “submit yourselves to your husbands, like Sarah did to Abraham, calling him lord, lord.” Can’t tell you how often I was abused by the Church with that one. Sad, its so instructive for Husbands in the same place!

  45. I agree with others, nowadays–sometimes–a church might let you divorce, but re-marriage is off the table. Would love to hear from you on this. I feel free to remarry, but would have to change congregations/ break relationships to do so, sadly.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your name here
Words left: 50
Please enter your comment!